The Google Plus social network apparently has just begun displaying link images as full-width photographs — not simply as thumbnails.
[UPDATE: From Saturday, March 15 through Monday, March 17 — the Ides of March through Saint Patrick’s Day — Google Plus links reverted to the old-style thumbnail images. As of today, March 18, they are back to showing in the new wide format. I’m assuming Google needed that time to digest its lessons from the initial roll-out and overhaul its code accordingly.]
This is a big deal for bloggers and web developers.
In the past, if I created a blog post or web page, and wanted to promote it on Google Plus, I faced a difficult choice: I could post it as a link, or as a photo, but not both.
As a link, the social-media post would display a relatively tiny thumbnail, alongside a text headline. Posts of this kind were relatively invisible in the Google Plus stream, which typically is bursting with flashy photographs, moving GIF animations, and other catchy images.
I could also post a photo illustrating the blog page, along with a link. In this case, however, the image itself would not link to the post. Most people would simply click on the image. But many web publishers still preferred photo posts, simply because these — being much more visible — tend to generate more engagement.
Facebook, until recently, posed the same choice. But Facebook recently introduced an option to display link-images full-width. Now Google Plus seems to have followed suit, going Facebook one better:
From preliminary testing, it appears Google Plus link images can be any size or shape. Facebook link images must be a strict 1.91 to 1, among other constraints.
The more relaxed Google Plus approach seems to give Big G an advantage in terms of website friendliness. This initiative seems sure to attract many more developers to the Google platform.
Two questions remain:
➊ If link images now can go full width, can they also go full stream? (Some photo posts are spread by Google across both columns of the display, and are very eye-catching. So far, no one I’ve heard from has heard of a link-post going full-stream in the same way.)
➋ Will Google update its mobile apps to reflect this change? (So far, it seems to work only on the desktop. My iPad is still showing link thumbnails. My guess is that mobile apps will follow suit — but that’s only a guess.)
Lots more information about this change will no doubt be forthcoming in the next few days!